With three games left in the season, the Yale football team will have no room for error Saturday.
Tied for third place in the Ivy League behind Penn (5–2, 4–0 Ivy) and Harvard (5–2, 4–0), Yale will be playing must-win games from here on out, starting with Saturday’s home game against Brown (4–3, 2–2), which split the conference title with Harvard last year.
“We’ve talked to our team about the fact that we need some help, but we have to make sure that we take care of our end of the bargain,” head coach Tom Williams said. “Winning the rest of our games is our part.”
Although the Bulldogs (4–3, 2–2) and the Bears share identical records, they arrived at them in very different ways.
Brown could easily have been undefeated in the Ivy League but has fallen just short. Early in the year the Bears lost to Harvard by three points, and just last week they missed a field goal at the end of regulation and went on to lose to Penn 14–7 in overtime.
Yale, on the other hand, is hoping to build off of what was a dominant performance in the fourth quarter last week that saw the Bulldogs score three touchdowns, force three turnovers and come away with the comeback 23–22 victory at Columbia. And as a result of the win, Patrick Witt ’12 will start at quarterback Saturday.
“[Brown] had a disappointing loss last week,” Williams said. “They’re going to be trying to get their ship righted, and we’re going to try to keep our momentum going.”
What was perhaps most surprising about the game was the way the Yale offense, which had not scored a touchdown in the previous 11 quarters of play, came together under the backup Witt.
Williams compared the offense’s resurgence last weekend to when a batter finally gets out of a hitting slump.
“When you get that first-base hit, sometimes the lid comes off,” he said. “I think for our offense it was like a 400-pound gorilla getting off of their backs, so we expect to continue like that for the rest of the year.”
Facing Brown, the Elis are will need as many points as they can get. The Bears have the conference’s most potent passing game, which should be a challenge even for the strong Yale defense. This season, Brown senior wide receivers Buddy Farnham and Bobby Sewall have each scored seven touchdowns and have caught a combined 100 passes.
“They have the two most highly touted receivers in the Ivy League,” cornerback Adam Money ’11 said. “Going up against them is always a challenge … You like to see, ‘If these guys are really the best in the Ivy League, how do I compare?’ ”
Although Brown averages 398 yards of total offense a game, that is not to say Yale is not up to the task.
Last year, Yale intercepted the Bears twice and held them to a field goal in the Bulldogs’ 13–3 upset in Providence.
The Bulldogs will look to continue where they left off with the same team that played in last week’s fourth-quarter comeback. After his impressive 151-yard passing performance during that final quarter, Witt will be starting for the first time since the third game of the season.
Money will once again be returning kicks. Wide receiver and punt/kick returner Chris Smith ’13 will still be out with a hip injury, Williams said. Alex Barnes ’11, who made a 47-yard kick last week, will continue to play in the place of usual placekicker Tom Mante ’10. Mante missed all three of his field goal attempts two weeks ago at Penn.
“Tom is our kickoff guy, he’s our field goal guy, and he’s our punter, so we wanted to lighten his load a little bit,” Williams said. “We were concerned about him maybe being overworked, and this gives him the opportunity to rest his leg a little bit.”
Kickoff is scheduled for 1 p.m. The game can be seen on YES and heard on WELI (AM-960, 960weli.com) and WYBC (AM-1340, wybc.com).